Keith Le Blanc, drummer for The Sugarhill Gang, Tackhead and many more has died aged 70

Keith Le Blanc
(Image credit: Keith Le Blanc/YouTube)

Session drummer, programmer and producer, Keith Le Blanc – who contributed to pioneering hip-hop tracks on Sugarhill Records including The Sugarhill Gang Rapper’s Delight and Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s The Message – has died aged 70. No cause of death has been confirmed.

The news of Le Blanc’s passing was announced by On-U Sound founder, and collaborator with Keith Le Blanc, Adrian Sherwood. “Keith was a major, major talent ..incredible drummer, producer and musician.. Along with Doug, Skip and also dearly missed Mark Stewart we enjoyed some of the most creative times together that shaped my musical life. Thank you Brother Keith..Love Forever. Heart and Soul.”

The drummer, who played an important part in early hip-hop got his first break as part of the Sugarhill Records house band in the early 80s alongside renowned bassist Doug Wimbish and guitarist Skip ‘Little Axe’ McDonald.

In 1983, Le Blanc found success with his own release - Malcolm X - No Sellout, on Tommy Boy Records. The track used pieced-together samples of Malcolm X to create one of the earliest examples of entirely sample-based music. Le Blanc continued to put out his own releases, clocking up seven solo studio albums between 1986-2005.

The track caught the attention of Sherwood, and together with Wimbish and McDonald they went on to form the industrial-hip-hop group, Tackhead, releasing four studio albums between 1998 and 2014. 

As well as racking-up hundreds of credits as a drummer, Le Blanc also worked as a percussionist, programmer, producer and mixer, where he had a hand in Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine as well as lending his skills to the likes of Ministry, Depeche Mode, James Brown, R.E.M. and many more.

Stuart Williams

I'm a freelance member of the MusicRadar team, specialising in drum news, interviews and reviews. I formerly edited Rhythm and Total Guitar here in the UK and have been playing drums for more than 25 years (my arms are very tired). When I'm not working on the site, I can be found on my electronic kit at home, or gigging and depping in function bands and the odd original project.